Nigeria on high alert as World Health Organization declares Ebola outbreak in Congo

CC BY 2.0

CC BY 2.0

Three deaths from Ebola have been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and health officials are investigating 17 other suspected cases.

The outbreak is thought to have begun on April 22, in the Likati Health Zone, Bas Uele Province, a remote area in the far north of the country that borders with the Central African Republic.

It is not clear yet how the first victim-a man who has since died-caught the virus.

This is the first outbreak of the disease to have occurred since the epidemic that claimed lives of more than 11,000 people in West Africa two years ago. During that outbreak, which WHO declared a "public health emergency of global concern", the Western Hemisphere also saw its first Ebola patients.

Following the declaration of an Ebola outbreak in the Northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the European Union is fully committed to provide all support necessary.

On 11 May, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo informed WHO that of 5 laboratory samples tested, 1 tested positive for Ebola virus at the Institut National de Recherche Biomedicale (INRB) laboratory in Kinshasa.

The trial took place in the coastal region of Basse-Guinée, the area of Guinea still experiencing new Ebola cases when the trial started in 2015.

Additional personnel, thermal scanners and sanitisers have been deployed in the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, as part of measures to forestall another round of Ebola outbreak in Nigeria.

Humans can also be exposed to the virus, for example, by butchering infected animals.

Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe, highly infectious virus that is spread through contact with bodily fluids.

Officials are working to trace more than 100 people connected to the suspected cases.

Congolese authorities appear reasonably confident that the outbreak will not escalate to the scale of the recent West African outbreak, which killed thousands across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In comparison, an unrelated Ebola outbreak in DRC in 2014 lasted four months and killed 49 people before it was stemmed, according to CNN.

"We are grateful to WHO and other partners for the swift support in carrying out investigations that led to the confirmation of this outbreak", said Oly Ilunga Kalenga, Minister of Health of DR Congo.

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